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Reality spin-off falls into familiar traps

BY BEN MEGARGEL
Daily Arts writer
Published February 6, 2007

In the debut episode of "I Love New York," star Tiffany "New York" Pollard fawns over a contestant named Chance with compliments for his baggy clothes and the fact that he "drinks a lot." In New York's VH1 world of "Celeb-reality," the crisp Polo's and inflated bank accounts favored on such similar shows as "The Bachelorette" are replaced with blinged-out grills and overblown egos. While this formula garners some cheap laughs, the end result is a series of exhausted caricatures.

Drew Philp
Some things never go out of style - like the afro. (Courtesy of VH1)

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The show is the spin-off of VH1's hit series "Flavor of Love," in which a group of women competed for the heart of Public Enemy and "Surreal Life" veteran Flavor Flav. New York was rejected in the final round of that show (in both seasons) but, just like Trista from "The Bachelorette," "I Love New York" turns the tables to allow New York the opportunity of selecting her own mate on primetime TV.

The contestants on "Flavor of Love" were an outrageously catty group of women - with New York separating herself from the pack as one of the most notably delusional - and their individual, if stereotyped, personas made the show one of the most socially acceptable guilty pleasures of last year.

On "I Love New York," however, the competitors are so overly typecast that none of their theatrics seem fresh. There's a requisite Latin lover, dubbed "Rico," who unintentionally offends New York when he refers to her as his "negrita." Didn't the uber-lame gags about the miscommunications of foreign men get officially retired after Fez on "That 70's Show?"

Not only does the show rely too heavily on stereotypes, it also overextends itself in searching for some of the natural personality inherent in its predecessor. "Flavor of Love" worked because of the cartoonish Flav and his unquestionable charisma. To her credit, New York exhibits some undeniable panache - especially when she asks the men if they are "feeling New York" - but she can't compete with Flav's stranger-than-fiction clock necklaces and Viking helmet.

One of the show's fresh elements is none other than New York's mother, who acts as a strange combo of advisor and wing-man. While clearly off her rocker, Mrs. Pollard's aggressive demeanor doesn't seem disingenuous - unlike the personalities of most of the contestants. In fact, her wild facial expressions and preachy rants are some of the most entertaining moments on the show.

In the end though, "I Love New York" suffers from the same creative missteps that many spin-offs often face. By attempting to be even more over-the-top than it's rather un-toppable predecessor, the show falters in its quest to be provocative, instead pandering to lifeless stereotypes. A Mrs. Pollard subplot involving a "Graduate"-style fling may be the only thing to fully redeem this carousing pseudo-freak show.

I Love New York
Mondays at 9 p.m.
VH1

Rating: 2 stars out of 5


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